Frankfurt am Main

Initiative teaches lay ministers in Europe how to help others during a crisis

Women and men volunteering in ministerial roles in congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around Europe benefit from an expanding programme on how to respond to individuals experiencing emotional crisis. 

Administered through the Church’s Europe Area Family Services office, introductory courses and a discussion guide are available in 14 European languages.

Ministering in Crisis is a gospel-based approach for psycho-social support,” explained Elder Mark Rencher, who served as a full-time volunteer at the Church’s European headquarters in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and was tasked to roll out the programme with the assistance of local mental health practitioners.

“Oftentimes, when you’re interacting with someone who’s in a crisis, you don’t know what to say. This teaches you what to say and how to relate to people who’re struggling,” added his wife Sister Lizbeth Rencher, a licensed psychologist holding a Ph.D..

Initiative teaches lay ministers in Europe how to help others during a crisis
“Ministering in Crisis” helps congregational leaders and members respond to individuals experiencing crisis.

She pointed out that these resources offered are aimed at lay ministers and not intended to replace professional help. “We are not here to offer psychotherapy or therapeutic intervention. We’re just here to give them some emotional support to prevent further damage,” Sister Rencher said.

Disastrous flooding, refugees from Ukraine seeking safety – Europe has seen several crisis situations in the past couple of years. As volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christi of Latter-day Saints have reached out to those in need, Ministering in Crisis has become an appreciated resource. “We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from bishops and Relief Society presidents saying that they wish they could have had this earlier,” Elder Rencher remembered.

In September 2021, Teresa Raposo piloted the project in Europe, working with three congregations in the Lisbon Stake. The Family services advisor has years of experience working with the Red Cross in Lisbon.

After receiving training, local leaders reported that the programme was instrumental in helping them to be more confident in dealing with members experiencing emotional distress. More specifically, they felt better prepared to listen, validate emotions, and offer hope.

Short awareness classes were offered to flood relief volunteers last year. A 44-page discussion guide – available in Albanian, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, and Swedish – is sent to ministers and congregations upon request. In addition, Family Service advisers are prepared to provide introductory training locally to leaders, members, or volunteers.